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Garden of Reflection

Reflections from the Dedication Committee

 

On September 11th, 2001, we were called into action as a nation. That calling propelled many of us to seek service in different ways. The Garden of Reflection was one of those callings to serve a better purpose and build a positive legacy. The Dedication of the Garden of Reflection was the culmination of efforts by family members and our community.

Throughout our community, I found many people who felt, as I did, a calling to help. Those that helped dedicated countless volunteer hours working to create the perfect setting for the Garden’s unveiling. Their discipline, devotion and dedication were selfless and the epitome of community service.

The Garden of Reflection is the vessel to which these people gave the full measure of their devotion with the hope of giving something to those that had lost so much.

Valerie Mihalek, Dedication Coordinator

 

On September 11, 2001 we all had to look on in agonizing helplessness as barbarians perpetrated a despicable act in which so many good people were cruelly killed and injured. While there still burns an ardent desire to see those responsible brought to justice, and the mentality that precipitated this tragedy eradicated, the initial anger has made room for the gentler feelings of sympathy and solidarity.

All of the musicians answered a calling to put our talents to use in expressing the emotions surrounding the dedication. We were grateful that finally there was something we could do personally to help the community recover.

The Garden of Reflection has risen as an expression of the loving memory of those who lost their lives that day, our sorrow for their loss, and a hope that the future holds a better relationship for the human race.

John Bachalis, Conductor, speaking for the 20 musicians who volunteered to perform the music for the Dedication of the Garden of Reflection

 

What interested me about the GOR was the amount of thought that went into its design. A place that represents the loss of life on an ordinary September day needs to be remembered. My country trained me in ceremonial decorum and it was my desire to offer that experience to the citizens of this Commonwealth. As a resident of Bucks County, I am proud that such a memorial exists.

Matt Bowman, Lower Southampton Police Honor Guard

 

I was so saddened to meet many of the families for the first time on September 11th and the days following the attacks. It is hard to put into words the emotions that went with each trip back and forth to each family telling them of their loved one missing or presumed gone forever.

For me, the darkest day in American history lead to close friendships and a long lasting bond with many of the families. I am blessed to have had the honor of doing my small part to turn a vision for a beautiful memorial into reality.

The Garden of Reflection is truly a place of remembrance of all the many people lost on that horrible day. It is also a living example of the Courage, Strength, and Resolve of each family member, and our great country.

Chief Ken Coluzzi, Lower Makefield Township

 

The Garden of Reflection is a place where I go to walk in the quiet, peaceful presence of those whose lives were taken from us on 9-11-01. Every time I have been there I have felt the gentle movement of the wind that blows and listened to the quiet reverence of life.

The Garden of Reflection is a place of peaceful presence, deep memories of stories rooted in love in all the names along the walk-way, being embraced by the embrace of a gentle breeze, and the refreshing waters of creation and new life.

I was humbled and honored to be a part of the service of remembrance last September.


Blessings,

Reverend Robert Combe, Yardley United Methodist Church

 

The Garden of Reflection was created by a special group of people who lost their loved ones and created the slogan "After Darkness... Light." We, as a community, have been shown the "Light" by this special group of neighbors. It is called the Garden of Reflection. Thanks for allowing me to be a small part of this wonderful place.

Dave Fleming Jr. Shady Brook Farm

 

The events of September 11th, 2001 changed us all. In an instant, we went from neighbor to friend, helpless to helpful and shocked to impassioned. From the moment I met the grieving families, I was inspired by their resolve. Starting with the Garden’s inception to the Dedication day, I had the honor of watching them overcome a tragedy. With each step, these families persevered in the face of true adversity and showed an inner strength that was an inspiration to us all. The Garden of Reflection is not only a tribute to the victims of September 11th, 2001 and their families; it also became a place of healing for the entire Bucks County and Pennsylvania communities. No visit to Bucks County is complete without seeing the Garden. The Garden of Reflection will forever stand as a poignant reminder of the tragic events of that day, but it will also be the place that brought our friends and neighbors home.

Through their grief, we found hope. Through their work, we found purpose. Through their darkness, we found light…and we are forever the better for it.

Michael G. Fitzpatrick, Congressman in 2006

 
The Very Rev. Daniell C. Hamby, Rector St Andrews Episcopal Church
 

I was honored to be part of the planning of the Dedication of The Garden of Reflection. Sept 11, 2001 showed just how fragile life is. I saw the horrors. I cried with our country during the darkest days of our lives. At that time, I saw no light at the end of this winding road of sorrow. Although the scars will never leave, and the wounds will never heal, The Garden of Reflection gave the light we all needed to help us brighten the shattered road of darkness. The Garden of Reflection gave me, my soul, my heart and all that will visit a proud sense of courage and the ability to move forward without ever forgetting that fateful day. GOR is very close to GOD. May all who visit be rest assured: You may arrive with bitterness, anger and sorrow, but you will leave with peace and tranquility knowing that 9-11 will live on in a positive way by paying tribute to all those that perished who WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.

Lou Jammer, Jammer Doors

 

"This has been one of the most meaning projects, and MOST REWARDING from a personal satisfaction standpoint that I've had the privilege of working on." "The personal relationships developed with the families that lost their loved ones are something that I treasure everyday." When I first started my involvement these family members never spoke in public before, never did any fundraising, and yet they were inspirational, their courage, their spirit and dedication to share their lives with us created a special place in my heart for all of them, Ellen, Tara, Grace, Bill, and Clara.

McCaffrey’s Markets

 

One of the most prayerful moments I have experienced was at the Garden of Reflection. It was truly a moving experience of God's presence with us, as we remembered loved ones who died in that terrible tragedy we now respectfully call 9/11. The Garden is very beautiful and it gives everyone an opportunity to reflect on those wonderful people we miss so much. It will surely keep their memories in our loving hearts forever!

Father Michael Picard, Pastor The Catholic Church of Saint Andrew, Newtown, PA

 

When I was first contacted to do the sound at the site- I thought, just another gig-put up some mikes- make them sound good- and call it a day. Boy was I wrong! I still remember the first day, walking thru the site, amidst the shoveled up shale and knee-high weeds. I'm thinking “This is a site of remembrance?” By the end of that meeting, those ladies cast a spell that truly inspired me to believe in what they were doing, and more importantly, what I was doing. As an American, I wondered, what can I do to help in such a tragic historic period in our lifetime? I have a brother in the service; I know what he might be asked to do. But as a sound engineer, after that day in that field, I knew there was a place for me to share my creative talents and make the dedication meaningful, and from my standpoint-HEARD! Such beautiful words were said, such beautiful music played, And I knew that connection was entrusted to me. Thank you for making my passion, your passion!

Musically,
Tom Seeland, Owner, T Seeland Sound

 

Standing at the Garden of Reflection one sees in a very tangible way the transformation from emptiness to beauty.

An empty piece of land, waiting since the beginning of time, to be transformed into a living memorial to our country’s heroes.

A place of a Memory, Sadness, Peace, Inspiration, Healing and Rebirth.

We never forget the silence of that awful day. Yet we do not remain there. We take the inspiration of those lost and move forward to build the fortress of freedom for the world.

Rabbi Yehuda Shemtov, Executive Director Labavitch of Bucks County

 

I often recall the day when a group of those most responsible for the Garden's creation showed me a patch of land where they then hoped it would be constructed. To go back and visit the Garden in that spot today, and see the peaceful oasis that has been created to honor the memory of those we lost is to witness a remarkable transformation. Everything was done with purpose and with a deep sense of respect for lost family and friends. I don't let company visit Bucks County without showing them the Garden. My association with the Garden is something about which I am very proud.

Mike Smerconish, Contributor

 

As State Representative for the 31st Legislative District, I was I was personally and professionally acquainted with several of the victims of the September 11th, 2001 attack. Further the 31st District experienced more victims than any other Legislative District in the State.

To me this meant any memorial to the victims should be in this district and that it should be emblematic of all victims by being recognized as the official Pennsylvania State memorial.

Dave Steil, State Representative

 

There are few days that have impacted my life like the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, everything changed.

The days, weeks and months that followed were among the most painful of my career as a journalist as I reached out to grieving family members to put a human face on a senseless tragedy that shook the nation and our community to its core.

Through their words and stories, I met husbands, wives and children who left for work on September 11, 2001 and never came home. They were people like you and I – ordinary in so many ways - whose names are now forever etched in the history of the nation.

Some were raising children, while others were just starting off -- engaged and planning to be married. They were full of life and vigor, each with promising futures.

As the families shared their stories, I wanted to wrap my arms around them and say it’s going to be alright, but I knew it wasn’t. Life had changed forever, not just for them but for all of us. In an instant, our world was a lonelier place.

While families grieved deeply over their loss, I found in their words something I hadn’t expected - a silent, profound strength that carried them through. It was something I would come to admire in people like Grace, Ellen, Tara, Fiona, Clara and the Kelly’s as they moved forward in the years that followed.

I first met Ellen Saracini a few months after the attacks of 9-11 when she, and other 9-11 family members, joined a grassroots effort to build the Garden of Reflection - a lasting and moving memorial created not only to remember those who lost their lives, but to reflect on a journey from darkness into light.

Ellen was joined on the committee by Grace Godshalk, a member of the Lower Makefield Board of Supervisors whose only son, William, was killed when the towers collapsed, and Tara Bane, who lost her husband, Michael, in the attack. Ellen’s husband, Victor, was the pilot of the second plane flown into the World Trade Center.

For the next five years, as editor of Yardley News, I documented their efforts to build the garden in the pages of the newspaper, from design, through fund-raising (remember the Groucho mustaches?) and eventually to construction and reality.

The memorial reminds me of what September 11th should be about – the strength of the human spirit to survive and turn the horrid ugliness into a shining beacon of hope.

The memorial was built on the tears of grief, shed by Bucks County families who lost the people they held most dear, and stands testament to a story of how a group of people, suffering from great loss, turned grief into a lasting, emotionally-moving tribute. “This garden is all about life,” Ellen once said. “We wanted it to be personal. We wanted it to be a peaceful and contemplative place where everyone, not just the family members, can find solitude and a sense of reflection.”

“This is the culmination of almost five years of work,” said Grace, who spent countless hours planning and fund-raising alongside other 9-11 family members. “We came together and we built something people thought we could not do. We’ve accomplished a beautiful memorial.”

September 2006 brought another profound moment in my life as the twin fountains of the memorial were turned on for the first time and family members walked through the entrance of the garden, arm-in-arm.

My eyes filled with tears, just like in the days following 9-11, but this time in quiet joy, knowing that some of the families had found a sense of peace in the comforting arms of the garden.

It was a scene that will remain with me forever as gentle tears of rain fell from the sky and the strains of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” filled the autumn air.

And there was Ellen, a pillar of strength, standing amid the crowd, sharing hugs and tears with family and friends. And not far away were Grace and Bill, Tara, Clara and the Kelly’s, all of whom suffered tremendously.

“September 11, 2001 was our darkest day. Today - September 30th, 2006 -- will forever be remembered as one of our brightest,” said Saracini, her words so profound and meaningful that they echoed through my soul and brought a realization to me that everything would be okay again.

Let’s always remember and never forget the people who died on September 11th. Say a prayer, make a donation and remember the families on Sept. 11. And if you have the opportunity, take a ride to Bucks County and visit the 9-11 memorial.

Jeff Werner, Yardley News

Dear Valerie, all members of the Garden of Reflection Committee, and all the other generous people who worked so hard to get the Garden in shape and to help the dedication run so smoothly,
It was wonderful to see the community come together with such a sweet spirit last Saturday. All the meticulous planning, imagination, perseverance and hard work manifested itself in a very smoothly flowing and elegant dedication. There was a special feeling in the air from the very beginning. I would think that it was just as the committee had envisioned: the ceremony befitted a place of reflection and beauty, which was appreciated by all who were there.
The Commencement Brass is grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Dedication. It means so much to so many individuals and to the community. It seems to me that it was as much of a spiritual event as any in which we have had the honor to participate.

Blessings to everyone,
John Bachalis, Jr., Conductor